A novel estimate of ocean oxygen utilisation points to a reduced rate of respiration in the ocean interior
Abstract. The Apparent Oxygen Utilisation (AOU) is a classical measure of the amount of oxygen respired in the ocean's interior. We show that AOU systematically overestimates True Oxygen Utilisation (TOU) in 6 coupled circulation-biogeochemical ocean models. This is due to atmosphere–ocean oxygen disequilibria in the subduction regions, consistent with previous work. We develop a simple, new, observationally-based approach which we call Evaluated Oxygen Utilisation (EOU). In this approach, we take into account the impact of the upper ocean oxygen disequilibria into the interior, considering that transport takes place predominantly along isopycnal surfaces. The EOU approximates the TOU with less than half of the bias of AOU in all 6 models despite large differences in the physical and biological components of the models. Applying the EOU approach to a global observational dataset yields an oxygen consumption rate 25% lower than that derived from AOU-based estimates, for a given ventilation rate.